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  • In the very first chapter of A Song of Ice and Fire and the very first sequence of Game of Thrones,

  • we see mysterious icy figures calledwhite walkers”, orOthers”.

  • At first, we know nothing about them. Now, five books and five seasons later, westill

  • know almost nothing. But wedo know some things”, so let's look at what we've got and try to work out what the Others are, what they want, and what'll happen.

  • The Others appear aswhite shadows in the darkness”, “Tall and gaunt

  • withBrightblueeyes. Theycome when it's cold”, in the night, or else

  • they bring the cold and darkness when they come. Old Nan calls themdead things”,

  • Sam calls themmonsters”, and Stannis calls themDemons made of snow and ice and cold”,

  • but when one's killed we see they'recreaturesmade ofblood

  • andfleshandbone”. George Martin has said that they'renot dead

  • but“a different sort of life” – “strange, beautifulinhuman, elegant, dangerous”.

  • In the show, the walkers look more or less like really old men with wrinkled skin, white

  • beards, black nails, and bad teeth. Either way, the Others clearly aren't “dead things

  • ordemonsbut living creatures. They speak, in a language of their own. They laugh,

  • theyscreechin pain , in the show they show shock and anger. They make things out of ice.

  • So the Others are intelligent, with emotion and maybe culture.

  • They might not be the monsters that they seem. That said, they do a lot of killing.

  • The Others wearrippl[ing] … shift[ing]” armour that can make them near-“invisible”,

  • and wieldstrange pale sword[s]” so sharp they canslicethrough ringmail

  • as if it were silk”. They fight effortlessly, mercilessly, “lightning quickand

  • with the strength, in the show, to throw men like ragdolls. “theirswords are so

  • cold they shatter steel”, and their armour protects them from most bladesthey seem

  • unstoppable. But they can be killed with obsidian, also called dragonglass. Sam stabs an Other

  • with an obsidian dagger, and the walkermelt[s] away“, its fingers smoking where they touch

  • obsidian. It's also hinted that Valyrian steel swords can kill walkers , and we see

  • this in the showJon Snow's Valyrian steel sword disintegrates an Other into icy

  • CGI. Others also apparentlydon't like fire” – which probably means they'd

  • really hate dragons. The Others resurrect the dead aswights”,

  • basically zombies controlled by the Others. Wights areslow clumsy things”, “with

  • blue eyes and cold black hands”, though in the show they're sometimes skeletal and

  • fast . Wights don't speak , and seem to have no humanity leftthough they seem

  • to keep some memories. The Others make wights out ofmenwomenchildren” – and

  • animalswalkersride dead horses”, send a bear into battle , and animate a

  • raven. The Others use wights to fight for them, and they're very dangerous. Wights

  • seem stronger than living men, able to “[lift a man] in the air by the throat and near [rip]

  • the head off him”. In the show they tear through timber with their bare hands, they

  • fall off a cliff and keep on running. They don't seem to feel pain. Even losing their

  • head won't stop them , and if a hand is cut off, the hand will keep moving. Unlike

  • the Others, wights aren't hurt by obsidian. The only way to stop them is to chop them

  • into bits , or to burn them. Wights are really flammable, “burst[ing] into flamefrom

  • even a little touch of fire. So one wight isn't all that bad, but at the Fist of the

  • First Men, and at Hardhome in the show, they come in a hugeswarm”, an unstoppable

  • tide of [the] living dead”, all controlled by the icy white walkers.

  • So what do the Others want? What are they doing? Well, they've been killing a lot

  • of humans. In Book 1 they kill some wildlings, and some men of the Night's Watch , and

  • they send wights after the Lord Commander and acting First Ranger at Castle Black. In

  • Book 3 they use wights to kill hundreds of Night's Watchmen at the Fist of the First

  • Men , then Sam kills a walker, and later wights are sent after Sam and Gilly. In Book 5 wights

  • attack Bran and company , and attack Hardhome. We also learn the Others have been attacking

  • wildlings for years , forcing them to flee south andhide behind [the] Wall”. So

  • the Others are killing humans of many different groups on a large scale, and are building

  • an army of the dead . But that's not all they're doing.

  • The wildling Craster refers to the Others asgods”, and has a sort of an agreement with them.

  • They don't attack him and his wives , and in return, Craster gives them his male children,

  • leaving the newborns in the snow to be collected by the Others. In the show, there's a scene

  • where an Other takes one of Craster's sons to a kind of an altar in what looks like the

  • far-north Land of Always Winter. There, the baby is changed into what looks like an Other.

  • One of Craster's wives refers to the Others asCraster's sons”. So it looks like

  • the Others can transform humans into Others, and that some people give their children to

  • the Others as a religious offering. It's probably not just Craster doing this. There

  • are all sorts ofstrangewildling cultures further to the north, and some of them are

  • rumoured to worshipgods of snow and ice”. Sacrifice to the Others may be a widespread

  • thing. The word Others is used as a curse, like a swear word, and the phrase is almost

  • alwaysThe Others take you”. It's not 'the Others kill you”, or 'the Others

  • steal your stuff' – it is sometimes 'the Others bugger you' – but it's almost

  • alwaysthe Others take you”, suggesting that the Others have a history of taking humans.

  • We also hear stories ofwildlings who would lay with the Others to birth half-human children”,

  • which sounds like a different thing, but either way, the Others clearly don't just

  • want to kill humans, but also want to use them make more Others. Maybe that's the

  • only way Others can reproduce, maybe this is part of some kind of natural cycle. For

  • now, we don't know. What we do know is that the Others are killing people, they're building

  • an army of the dead, and winter is coming. Melisandre says they'remarshalling

  • theirevil” “powerand will wage “a war for life itself”, that they'll

  • bring a “night that never ends”, unlesstrue mencan fight them in a “great

  • battlecalledthe war for the dawn”. Stannis calls the OthersThe only enemy

  • that matters”. Jon calls them thereal foeand saysthey will come for us”.

  • Everyone's expecting war between humanity and the Others.

  • Which could make sense, because a “war for the dawnhas apparently happened before.

  • We're told legends ofthe Long Night” – a dark winter, thousands of years ago,

  • that lasted a generation. It's said thatIn that darkness, the Others came”, to

  • extinguish all light and warmth”. “They swept over holdfasts and cities and kingdoms,

  • felled heroes and armies by the score, riding” “monstrous ice spiders and the horses of

  • the dead”, “leading hosts of the slain”. Whenthe realms of menwere almost

  • atan end”, Westeros was saved by thelast hero”, who, with thehelp

  • of the children of the forestwho might have given him obsidianestablished the

  • Night's Watch, and defeated the Others in battle. After this victory, the Wall was

  • built to make sure the Others could never came back. So that's the story in Westeros.

  • Across the Narrow Sea, the Rhoynar have legends of a darkness, but there's no mention of

  • the Others or a battle. In central Essos, the Dothraki and the cultures of Slaver's

  • Bay seem to have no tales of the Long Night. But in the far east, there are legends very

  • similar to the one of thelast heroand thebattle for the dawn”.

  • The YiTish say that during the Long Night they were attacked by theLion of Nightand hisdemons”,

  • who were defeated when a hero called Azor Ahai forged a burning sword and led humanity

  • into battle. Now, huge mysterious citadels called the Five Forts stand to keep the demons

  • out, dividing therealms of menfrom the Grey Waste beyond . Which sounds a lot

  • like the Wall, right? And thedemonsof theLion of Nightsound a lot like

  • the Others. Isn't it super weird that such similar things happened on apparently opposite

  • sides of the world? George Martin has said that his world is round, so if you went far

  • enough east you must eventually find Westeros. Maybe these two places, the Grey Waste and

  • the Land of Always Winter, are connected. Maybe the Others of Westeros and thedemons

  • of Yi Ti are one and the same, based in some place between the Wall and the Five Forts.

  • That would make this area a centre of cold in this world, leaving Valyriawhere the

  • Targaryens and apparently dragons come from – a centre of heat. This gives a sense of

  • order to the fire and ice in this world, and might explain why the Long Night affected

  • Westeros and Yi Ti so badly without affecting central Essos apparently at all. This could

  • also be related to the irregular seasons, which George Martin has suggested will eventually

  • be resolved somehow. Anyway, the main legends agree that the Long Night ended with a battle

  • led by a hero now prophesied be reborn and save the world once more.

  • Which, y'know, could happen. Jon Snow could be reborn with a flaming sword as Azor Ahai,

  • he could unite the Night's Watch, the wildlings, and the north, and lead them to war, killing

  • Others with obsidian from the children of the forestor from Stannis' mines

  • and Daenerys could fly in with her dragons, to burn away the dead, and Tyrion could ride

  • one of the dragons, and Bran could warg one of the other ones, and Rickon could ride in

  • on a unicorn, and all the good guys could come together and kill all the bad guys, and

  • Daenerys and Jon could make out, and rule together as Queen and King, as fire and ice,

  • for ever and ever, the end. Except things probably won't be that simple.

  • Does it really make sense for this story to end with a war? We've seen so much war already,

  • and most it achieves nothing but suffering. Look at Robb Stark's campaign, Daenerys'

  • conquests in Slaver's Bay, Stannis' invasion of Blackwater Baythey're all seemingly

  • just wars waged by seemingly good people, but they all fail their original goals and

  • cause a huge amount of suffering, not just for the nobility, but for the common people.

  • Look at Arya's chapters at Harrenhal, Jaime's chapters in the riverlands, at Septon Meribald's

  • speechwe're shown over and over that war is terrible and wrong and pointless.

  • George Martin himself was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, and many of his other

  • books also have a strong anti-war theme . So how can a story filled with terrible, unjust,

  • pointless wars end with a great war that saves the world?

  • A “war for the dawnwould also be too obvious. George Martin has said thatpart

  • of the thing [he] always strive[s] for in [his] books, is not to be predictable”. And

  • what could be more predictable than the good guys defeating the evil ice monsters in a

  • big epic battle? Martin has specifically criticised the Lord-of-the-Rings-style war between good

  • and evil. He saysWe don't need any more Dark Lords, we don't need any more” “good

  • guys battling bad guys”, “the wars in my books are much more morally complex”.

  • Showrunner David Benioff has saidit's not going to be your classic good-versus-evil

  • conflict”. So the writer of the series and the creators of the show, as well as the

  • series itself make it clear that this story won't end with a righteous war between good

  • guys and bad guys. Which makes you wonder

  • maybe that's not what happened last time either. Legends of the Long Night and thebattle for the

  • dawnare ancient , and weren't even written down until thousands of years after they supposedly

  • happened. We're warned over and over not to trust these tales. So while the Long Night

  • did seem to have happened, and the Others clearly are real, thewar for the dawn

  • might not have happened the way we're told. After all, it's pretty hard to believe that

  • humanity could've defeated the Otherswe've seen how dangerous they are. Would a hero

  • with a flaming sword have been enough to win the war? A popular idea in the fan community

  • is that the Long Night ended with some kind of peaceful agreement between humanity and

  • the Others. Hints of this can be found at the Nightfort.

  • The Nightfort is the oldest and the largest of the castles on the Wall, thechief seat

  • of the [Night's] Watchforthousands of years”. Now, it's abandoned, and notorious

  • as a “hauntedanddreadful place”. It's the subject of horror stories and

  • strange legends, some of which hint at a connection between the Night's Watch and

  • the Others. This brings us to the story of the Night's King. To clear something up

  • real quick, this white walker in the show is referred to as theNight Kingby

  • HBO, but it's probably not the same figure as the legendary Night's King, at least

  • not in the books, so keep that in mind. The story of the Night's King goes that thousands

  • of years ago, the thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night's Watch loved a womanwith

  • skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars” – which sounds like an Other or

  • a wight. Hegave his seed to her [and] his soul as well”, heproclaimed her

  • a queen and himself her king”, hebound his Sworn Brothers to his will” “with

  • strange sorce